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Reader: So I am reading through the February 4x4 of the Year issue and I notice something.'07 Chevy Avalanche LT (I am assuming the 3.5/211 is a typo), 5.3L V-8 310 hp @ 5,200/335 (lb-ft) @ 4,400
'07 Silverado 1/2-ton X-cab, 5.3L V-8 315 hp @ 5,200/338 (lb-ft) @ 4,400
Chevy Tahoe LT, 5.3L V-8 320 hp @ 5,200/340 (lb-ft) @ 4,400
They are all 9.9:1 compression. All are the same bore and stroke. All are S.M.P.F.I. multifuel/87 octane or E85. All are running essentially the same trannies on the same frames with the same running gear. Basically, I see the same chassis with a different body and yet...different horsepower numbers? I don't understand that. I suppose the simple answer is they tune them differently according to the weight of the vehicle, but why? And that really doesn't make all that much sense when the hauler (pickup) has less horsepower than the grocery getter.
And how does Chevy lose the 4x4 of the Year with six trucks in a field of nine? Amazing!
Mike, via 4wheeloffroad.com
Editor: Good guess. The engines are tuned different for emissions, towing, cooling, and other reasons that sometimes defy logic. And why did the Chevys not rule in the test? Another reader has his views....
Reader: I was wondering, how did the 3.5L V-8 in the '07 Chevrolet Avalanche get 310 hp and 335 lb-ft of torque as described in the 4x4 of the Year test? Why does GM not put this amazing motor in the H3? I was disappointed it only got the same mpg as the 5.3L V-8. I would think that something went wrong, somewhere! Otherwise, I think your mag is the best!
John Reitz, Elyria, OH
Editor: Man, oh man. One would think we could catch a typo like 3.5 is actually 5.3! But it does get more interesting, read on.
Reader: I see that GM stepped up and supplied more than 60 percent of the field in your 4x4 of the Year test. Looking at the list, it seems that you can drop the top half without even trying to crawl under them (all GM fullsize trucks/SUVs). Not to bash GM, but stock fullsize rigs just aren't built to do what you are testing (with the exception of the few factory-prepared rigs such as the Dodge Power Wagon). They are designed as people and cargo haulers. Even with the Z71 Offroad package, the vehicles just aren't equipped for any real trail riding.
I am sure that every reader who owns a fullsize rig wants to strangle me for that statement, but I am not saying that a built fullsize isn't capable, just a stock one. Their enormous length, with a large wheelbase and huge overhangs, makes for horrid break-over and approach and departure angles. Has a fullsize truck ever won your contest? I don't remember any in the 10 years I have subscribed, although my memory is not perfect.
Mark Myers-Russo, Griswold, CT
Editor: Actually, you need a memory pill, or you should read the entire article. Last year the stock Dodge TRX4 1500 won, and looking back, the Toyota Tundra won in 2000, the Dodge 3/4-ton V-10 won in 1995, and a 1/2-ton Dodge won in 1994.
Reader: In your Jan. '07 issue there is an article called "Trekking Forty." On the top of the third page of the article, page 88 of the mag, you mention the "Pair-O-Dice 4Wheel drive club." The club is actually called "Four Dice 4Wheel drive club." And since they did such a great job manning the winch hill I think they deserve to have their correct club name displayed. Thanks for all the hard work you guys put into the mag.
Brandon Chappell, via 4wheeloffroad.com
Editor: All we can say is oops. We had freelancer Chris Collard cover the Sierra Trek for us, and, must have been upside down in a Toyota when he wrote that, as he is a long-standing member of Cal4wheel and knows the difference in clubs. We've cut off his Corona allotment (for back in camp, of course) until he straightens up. In the meantime, we apologize and hope it won't happen again.
Reader: I must commend the staff at Petersen's 4-Wheel & Off-Road for the honest review of the Toyota FJ Cruiser ("4x4 of the Year," Feb. '07). I thought for sure your review would be swayed by the almighty Toyota advertising dollar. Those thick perforated FJ Cruiser ads that have been inserted into every recent issue of your publication must be a great source of revenue, yet you still called the FJ Cruiser what it really is: a design student's compact SUV that took priority over mechanical substance. The current FJ is a great attempt, but the '07 FJ Cruiser fails to live up to the classic FJ40. No front locker, no "barn door" design in the back, poor driver visibility, and the lack of a removable roof are a few reasons why FJ Cruisers are not flying off Toyota dealership lots.
Toyota should have followed the formula that DaimlerChrysler's upper executives, designers, and engineers used when they started work on the '07 Jeep Wrangler: KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid), and respect the original classic design and practicality that made the original vehicle popular. I am a loyal Toyota pickup owner who dreamed of owning a modern version of the classic FJ40, but the new FJ Cruiser strays too far from what made the original FJ a success.
David Spreitzer, Corona Del Mar, CA
Reader: I sit here in astonishment, having finished your 4x4 of the Year story. I'd keep referring to the test results chart, but no matter how many times I look, the Kia Sorento still ranks above the Toyota FJ Cruiser!
Where's the pushbutton locker? Where's the transfer-case shift lever? Where are the real off-road tires? The Kia is an SUV that "looked and felt more like a car than a truck" because it is, ladder frame or not?
On the other hand, the FJ Cruiser has A-trac (which does work quite well), a locking differential, a transfer-case shift lever, 17-inch wheels (although it does need proper tires), more torque, more legroom, more headroom, more shoulder room, and more towing capacity. The aesthetics are just right. Anyone can go more retro, but that wasn't the intent. Welcome to 2007. The FJ also has vented disc brakes all around, an awesome engine and drivetrain, an excellent ride, and near sports-car handling. The roof rack is usable, and it has bigger collapsible side mirrors. A couple of $2 fish-eye mirrors should take care of the blind spots. The six-disc, nine-speaker stereo (with subwoofer) is out of this world.
Obviously the FJ isn't perfect as no vehicle is. But it took courage and conviction on Toyota's part to stay close to the prototype and break the cookie-cutter mold of all the little boring SUVs out there. It targets a rather small demographic, one of which is mainly made up of people who prefer to be a little different and also know the heritage behind all of Toyotas off-road vehicles.
Bob Perlstein, via mail
Editor: So, we're not sure who works for Toyota, but one of them is a loyal owner. Bottom line: Yes, the FJ Cruiser is a good rig, and yes, the lowly Kia beat it in every category. That's the way the tests work when different vehicles are pitted against each other, in a by-the-numbers test. The Kia has a better power-to-weight ratio, can turn better, and is easy to drive and see out of. It's compact, efficient, and not too bad a looker. It can wheel as well as most stock 4x4s, if you know how to drive. The FJ? Well, we're not allowed to put $2 mirrors on it that would make it easier to see out of, and our opinion is that a button marked Subwoofer should not be as important as the one marked Front Locker. Read on about what other fans had to say.
Reader: First let me say I love the magazine, and I have learned a lot from the articles therein. Most times I find your mag informative and entertaining, but when I read the 4x4 of the Year article, I felt a need to write you a letter. I am the sole mechanic for a very busy four-wheel-drive shop in Spokane, Washington, and I have worked on all of the brands tested in your story. I have a little insight I'd like to share with you.
Have you ever heard the expression "Comparing apples to oranges?" This is exactly what you have done with this story. The new JK is arguably one of the best and most capable 4x4s DaimlerChrysler has ever built, but there is a problem. The JK Rubicon was built with off-road capability as its first priority, creature comforts and utility second. All the other vehicles you tested (with the exception of the FJ), are just the opposite. How could you not know the outcome of your test ahead of time when you pit a dual solid-axle vehicle with lockers front and rear against seven IFS vehicles? It doesn't seem fair to compare these vehicles in an off-road test. I've never seen a commercial touting the Kia Sorento's RTI score, or an ad bragging about the GMC's approach angle.
That's not what the designers had in mind when they created them. You also failed to test a feature that a lot of us (me included) find very important in our 4x4s-towing capacity! Four out of the five GM vehicles tested could easily drag that Jeep to the trail on a flatbed. Have you ever seen a Jeep pulling an Avalanche on a trailer? Some of us like the plush ride and power windows and locks, and don't care for the roof of our vehicle to resemble a tent. It seems like a comparison of these eight rigs is not really a comparison at all, but a Jeep ad.
Next time try comparing straight axle to straight axle, and IFS to IFS. How about throwing a Dodge 3/4-ton, an F-250, and an International CXT in there? They're all 4x4s with straight axles! No, that would be like comparing apples to oranges. Besides none of those additions are off-road purpose-built either. But hey, ATVs are, maybe you could test them against it. That test would be just as relevant as what you did. I still love the mag, so keep up the good work.
Adam Morrow, Spokane, WA
Editor: Sorry, it doesn't seem fair because it isn't, and neither is life. We test all vehicles that are eligible and whose manufacturers can and want to compete (the Dodge 3/4-ton, Ford F-250, and CTX declined to compete this year.) We've picked every type of vehicle entered over the years, and we compare apples to oranges because we can, and must. If you don't think a Wrangler should have won, then go to the second place and pick that. Or to third, or to whatever you think is the best. We can't compare apples to apples if there is only one apple in the test! One solid-axle rig and a bunch of IFSers doesn't mean the solid axle will win either, as other years have shown. As for apples to oranges, how would you judge the Amalgamated Fruit Contest? Would it be fair to have that damn pear family or crooked tomato conglomerate in the same test as kiwis and lemons? And don't start with the towing part; although we feel towing is important, the ability to tow in and of itself has no relationship whatsoever as to how well a vehicle can wheel, unless you're towing while you're wheeling the trail, so it isn't part of the test.